Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Doll house

Little girls are supposed to play with dolls. But I don't remember doing that. I had dolls, of course. The ones I remember best were the ones that relatives and friends brought me back from overseas trips as presents. They weren't meant to be played with; they were meant to be looked at, and I lay in bed and stared at them sitting on a display shelf for hours. The one I remember best was from Japan, dressed in a beautiful and intricate kimono. She was posed on a stand and could not be moved.

Also on that shelf was a Madame Alexander Alice in Wonderland doll. I can see every detail of it now -- the blue dress, the white apron, the puff sleeves, the headband. Again, she was not meant for play.

I had Barbies, too -- a Barbie and a Skipper. My grandmother made lots of clothes for me in elementary school, and she used scraps of the same fabric to make matching clothes for my Barbies. I can't remember acting out any scenarios with them ... can't remember styling their hair or dressing them. It seems to me that I was hyperaware as a child of the expectation to play with dolls, and completely confused about how to do it.

So as I watch my daughter, thrilled with her new knitted dolls, insist on arranging them on her bed, take them to school, and sleep with them in her arms, I wonder what she's experiencing. So much of her personality and activity relates to typical girlishness. And because I don't think of myself at that age as girly or typical -- because in some ways she's defying those stereotypes as well -- I can't quite imagine what drives her to squee over her dolls, hug them tight, and share them proudly her friends.

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